Amna Nawaz: Well, the Italian region of Tuscany is renowned for its world-class wine, from vine to vat, making it a time-tested practice that hasn’t changed much over the centuries.
But as Christopher Livesey explains, there is one small vineyard that defies tradition and brings its wine to life with the sound of music.
This story was prepared before the pandemic and Livesey is now a correspondent for CBS.
Christopher Livesey: The harmonious combination of temperate climate and fertile soil in the rolling hills of Montalcino in Tuscany has long helped to create some of the best wines in the world.
But there is another unusual ingredient in this Paradiso di Frassina vineyard. Seven days a week and 24 hours a day, these Sangiovese grapes are fed by Mozart’s stable diet.
Behind this unorthodox approach is owner Carlo Cignozzi, a former musician.
Carlo Cinozzi, owner of the Paradiso di Frassina (via translator): I knew that music gives energy to the human soul. People need it to thrive. The plants are the same.
Christopher Livesey: But could Mozart’s divertissement in D major cause bacchanalia?
Cignozzi says the vines closest to the speakers produce the juiciest grapes and the greenest leaves. He does not need to use a lot of fertilizer or any pesticides. Mozart, he says, drives away pests.
Carlo Chinozzi (via translator): Crickets mate on the vine. That’s why they make this sound, it’s their mating call.
Christopher Livesey: Tell me about it. Why does music scare away crickets?
Carlo Chinozzi (via translator): Because the cricket serenades: I’m here, my love. I’m going.
But if the music of Mozart is playing, the woman does not hear it. So they leave and go somewhere quieter, instead to the vineyards of my neighbors. The same goes for the birds and wild boars that would otherwise eat my grapes.
Christopher Livesey: Mozart wine sounds like a good idea, but is it a gimmick?
Well, now some researchers are saying there may be some truth to this eccentric viticulture.
Scientists at the CREA Research Laboratory in Tuscany are trying to test some of these claims.
Paolo Storchi, Director of the CREA Research Laboratory (via translator): Previous research shows that there is a positive effect on plant growth as well as insects when certain sound waves act as a pest deterrent.
Christopher Livesey: He also suggests that Mozart’s music mimics the frequencies of running water, which may explain why vines stretch and grow towards the speakers.
Now Storchi and his team are trying to test another potential advantage.
Alice Ciofini, Researcher at the CREA Research Laboratory: Yes, now I’m going to cut the sheet.
Christopher Livesey: To see if the music prevents the fungus from growing.
So, are you looking for the right wavelength to keep this plant from getting infected?
Alice Ciofini: Yes.
Christopher Livesey: People have long considered plants to be lower forms of life than humans. Even Aristotle said that plants are on the verge between living and non-living. And in the Old Testament, Noah made room in the ark for animals, not for plants.
But today there is a movement in science to recognize plants as sentient and even sentient beings.
Stefano Mancuso, University of Florence: Because plants are not just able to live. They are capable of feeling. They are much more sophisticated in sensation than animals.
Christopher Livesey: Stefano Mancuso of the University of Florence, who is giving a TED Talk, is another scholar who has studied Cignozzi’s musical vineyard in depth.
Stefano Mancuso: And they are also capable of demonstrating and demonstrating such beautiful and complex behavior that can only be described by the term intelligence.
Christopher Livesey: Of course, there are skeptics.
Has anyone ever called you crazy?
Carlo Chinozzi (via translator): Certainly. The Italians are the worst. It’s like hitting a wall. They say to me: “Carlo, don’t mess with wine.”
Christopher Livesey: But among the faithful, Cignozzi also counts Bose, a maker of high-end loudspeakers. The company sponsored his 120-speaker sound system, spread over 25 acres, and even inside his cellar, where local wine master Federico Ricci suggests that musical vibrations aid the fermentation process in those prized brunello barrels, in much the same way that swirling wine in glass can reveal its most subtle aromas.
Federico Ricci, wine master at Paradiso di Frassina (via translator): It is, of course, very different. It has different chemical characteristics. It has a lot more polyphenols. The polyphenols give wine its color, as well as all the antioxidants that give it its body. So it definitely makes the wine better.
Christopher Livesey: But does the music have to be Mozart? Scientists say it could be anyone from the Rolling Stones to Barry White.
But Cignozzi disagrees. He can’t get enough of Mozart.
Carlo Chinozzi (via translator): I tried different ones, for example, Gregorian chants. But for me, Mozart is a composer of nature. It is the most geometric, the deepest, the most cheerful and at the same time the most mysterious.
Such is Mozart. So is my wine.
Christopher Livesey: For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Christopher Livesey from Montalcino, Tuscany.